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Owarimonogatari – 11

「しのぶメイル 其ノ伍」 (Shinobu Meiru Sono Go)
“Shinobu Mail Part Five”

So there’s this girl, and she had a… fiance? They have a spat, the fiance runs off into the night (light, whatever) and gets smoked. She mopes around for a century or four, but eventually makes peace with it and settles down with some other nice guy, but then lo and behold her original lover her is back as some sort of double undead to fight him for your hand, and baby don’t you remember what we used to share let’s get together come back baby—

At some point I lost track of which parts of this is a metaphor. Certainly, the part where some guy is hounding a woman to regain his ‘sword’ doesn’t mean anything more. Nothing at all.

So, when did Owarimonogatari become a supernatural soap opera? With sparkling vampires, for goodness sakes. I know the vampire/fanged relationship has classically been framed as quasi-romantic (with a capital ‘R’, perhaps) or at least quasi-sexual, but I can’t help but wonder if Shinobu Mail is perhaps not pushing it a bit too hard. If they were going to insist on doing that, I would have at least preferred that they modernised the scenario a bit. As we are now, it’s Kamiya Hiroshi talking to himself for a third of the episode before deciding that there’s nothing to do but pistols at dawn! With the lady as the prize! For honour and testosterone!

Episode made for a good distraction until I realised I wasn’t supposed to know what his deal is yet since I think we only saw him once in Tsubasa Tiger. Kizumonogatari? What Kizumonogatari?

Perhaps I’m just suffering from personal values dissonance here, because the second act of the episode did not completely work for me either. Now, I’m all in support of Kanbaru standing up to Shinobu. And I could really feel her emotional intensity. And I do support clear communication most of the time. I like all that. But part of me can’t help but think that much of what she was saying was sophistry. Let’s contextualise a bit here. Araragi was right; the first is acting like a crazy stalker. I really don’t think one should encourage those sorts. But here’s Kanbaru who, for all her charm, is really queen crazy stalker. I don’t want to judge her harshly, but considering her backstory, I think she has clear interests with the crazy stalker lobby. Are there really no legitimate reasons for Shinobu to aboid confronting this ghost of vampire tragedy past? Let’s add a bit more drama to our metaphor, the one with the girl and her fiance. Let’s say, the fiance was a Jehova’s witness. He’s about to die, so she gives him a blood transfusion. The fiance predictably is not happy about it, and kills himself in an act of outrage. The girl is understandably wrecked by it, but after years of therapy manages emotional stability. That’s all a fairly straightforward tale of love and loss until the kicker: the fiance rises from the grave. Zombies are never a part of a normal relationship. What do do, what to do?

See the problem with pushing the romantic-relationship metaphor so hard? The supernatural elements really throw things out of whack here. But the message we can derive is: who cares what Shinobu feels?

Araragi almost manages to, but in the end gives up on it. I think it’s no surprise that he agreed to the duel with the first without consulting with any other interested party, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking it’s a horrible idea. Look, here’s this stalker. He says he wants to negotiate with you, but wants to do it on his terms even though you want nothing from him. Meanwhile, he tries to murder you, y’know, in a show of good faith. So you agree to remove your protection against him and fight his duel? I’ve come to accept that Araragi has no self-preservation instinct by now, but is this really a full chain of logic? After Kanbaru’s big speech, you’re not letting her talk to him now? Eh? How did you come to the conclusion that do it yourself was the proper advice here, Araragi? When has that ever worked well for you?

I really hope that Araragi had thought this further through than he lets on, or Shinobu Mail will just end up as Suruga Monkey: Take 2. At the same time, if everything is resolved just by Shinobu having a chat with the first and making nice with him, I think I might throw up in my mouth a little. There is a happy medium here, and I hope Owarimonogatari finds it.

End Card

December 13, 2015 at 7:09 am
19 comments »
  • December 13, 2015 at 8:13 amYukie

    This ep didn’t work for me either. Shinobu and Kanbaru’s dialogue was too long, such that I lost track midway and got confused. Or maybe there just wasn’t any logic involved. I also didn’t quite understand how Araragi came to the conclusion of dueling with the First. Wasn’t it already established (by Gaen and the First) that he didn’t have much choice in the matter?

  • December 13, 2015 at 10:35 amMistic

    At last we know the reason Araragi was stomped by Ononoki! And people thought it to be just fanservice. The gall!

    In more serious matters, I agree that the episode lost me. Not so much the first part; despite words like “stalker”, even Araragi pointed out in his thoughts what the real problem was: is the First honest in his wanting to make amends, or is it just a ploy to get revenge? Look at his words carefully: most of his statements could mean one thing or the other. And remember that line at the very beginning: “There’s no way I’d let a vampire live, even for a moment”.

    Which bring us to Kanbaru’s stupid reasoning. Yeah, she has a soft spot for stalkers, but Shinobu’s arguments actually made much more sense. In the best case scenario, she will have the First ressurrect after 400 years of painful trial and error only to break his heart and let him be erased by the exorcists. In the worst case scenario, he could end up killing her and others around her. Sorry, Kanbaru, but your insistence on “nonsense” as a valid argument is, aptly enough, nonsense. And Shinobu’s rejecting of it actually make her human, even if it’s only to avoid pain (humans hate pain, don’t we?). The one that doesn’t look human in her reasoning is you, Kanbaru.

    Ironically enough, it seems Araragi is aware of that. That would explain why he is so eager to do it himself. Again. And put his life at risk. Again. Without a plan. Again.

    • December 13, 2015 at 2:24 pmfishies

      You don’t know what the sequel is do you? Well I don’t want to spoil but Kanbaru ends up being right.

      Give closure to people if they aren’t clear so they stop stalking.

      Who’s the other guy in the End Card? I know it ain’t First cause he was 400 years ago.

      I believe Episode was supposed to duel with the First but Araragi wants to instead.

      • December 13, 2015 at 5:15 pmMistic

        I’m sure I don’t know it, but what sequel are we talking about? The last part of Owarimonogatari? Koyomimonogatari? Zokuowarimonogatari? I get lost sometimes.

        And Kanbaru may be right about it, but it’s more “a sparkling vampire gets into my room and spies me while I sleep, but that’s totally OK because he loves me” and less “that’s good moral advice and you should follow it in real life too”, if you know what I mean.

      • December 13, 2015 at 6:13 pmPasserby

        @fishies
        I would say that the mere fact that things work out does not necessarily validate anybody’s logic, or lack thereof.

  • December 13, 2015 at 10:43 amGRID

    I think it’s sad that the Kizumonogatari adaptation was not done before this arc.
    It would provide much needed context for Arararagi-Shinobu’s relationship, and vampire-subordinate relationships for that matter.

  • December 13, 2015 at 11:08 amcryarc

    I DON’T like the first’s design… wtf is that muscle shota wearing thight modern clothes??? And that hairstyle, he have more hair than the entire girls cast D8 And wtf with that creepy stuck up arrogant pushy stalker attitude??? From the build up out of earlier episodes I thought the first will be a badass guy, with the appearance of grown up samurai (at least similar with Samanosuke from Onimusha). Out of the entire monogatari series this is the worst episode, the moment he appeared everything good just fall apart.

  • December 13, 2015 at 6:35 pmRyan Ashfyre

    Mayhaps I’m just being biased because of how much I like Shinobu’s character, but I can’t much say that I buy how she’s being portrayed here. Is she really the kind to just beat around the bush once she found out that her first ‘minion’ had survived for all this time? Frankly, I’m surprised she didn’t head out on her own to settle things, reduce the first to ash and made sure he was dead this time and have enough time on the way home to pick up some donuts.

    All this emphasis on romanticism and what not seems like one big reach around to try and force the issue while the outcome itself won’t change at all. If that’s the case, it’s a big mistake, IMO.

  • December 13, 2015 at 7:16 pmAzsurance

    The story weaving is too perfect, just like how Hanekawa’s backstory coincided with Sodachi’s. And now Kanbaru whom we previously thought to have totally nothing in common with this incident, has with her backstory (Suruga Monkey).

    I still think she’s a romanticist though, regardless, the important thing here is closure. Some people can do it without, some must. To the end, I’m still unsure if Shinobu herself needed closure from 400 years ago.

    But still, yikes, a mortal who defeated Shinobu in a “1v1″, +1 Kanbaru.

    P.S – We really need Kizu to be released quickly so as to gain a perfect understanding of this arc. Araragi didn’t even seem surprised nor acknowledged Episode by his sudden appearance.

  • December 13, 2015 at 8:52 pmpenguin71

    I’m going to have to disagree with you here Passerby. I should preface myself by stating that I simply disagree, and that it’s totally fine for us to have differing opinions. Just stating my view here.

    I think it’s perfectly valid for Kanbaru to confront Shinobu about avoiding the First. The relationship between Shinobu and the First is comparable to that of Senjougahara and Kanbaru. Both Kanbaru and the First were basically stalkers who were ultimately “second” in priority when it came down to it. Because of this, Kanbaru’s insistence on Shinobu directly confronting the First comes off as sympathy for the First. And this is accurate, as Araragi mentions. But while this may seem to only favor the First, it’s actually for the sake of Shinobu, and more importantly, for Araragi .

    Kanbaru: “You’re simply being bashful.”

    It’s important to note that for Shinobu, over the course of her entire life up to that point, has had only had two dedicated relationships, ones in which she was emotionally committed. The first relationship ended badly, as the First killed himself, and so she clings to the second one (rather unhealthily). Despite her age, she lacks in relationship experience. Because of that, she wants to avoid her relationships problems and thus any related emotional pain. I think “you’re just scared” would be a better phrase.

    Kanbaru: “You can’t face the first one directly, so there’s no way you can with the second one.”

    The current First could be the future Second if Shinobu and Araragi ever separate. If Shinobu ignores the First, she sets a precedent on how she’ll treat any committed relationship in the future, including Araragi.

    Kanbaru: “You want to be liked, and on top of it, stay a good person?”

    Shinobu states that cruelly rejecting the First would be meaningless, but it is not meaningless, as Kanbaru learned in her arc. Direct rejection is painful, but it is also necessary to move on. Both for the rejected and for the rejector. You cannot be both liked and stay a good person if you are truly committed to a relationship. I think anyone with emotionally committed friendships knows that sometimes being a good friend requires that you hurt them directly, in order to keep them from suffering further. But of course it also hurts to be that good friend and make that choice, knowing that they will hurt. I care about Shinobu’s feelings, but she cannot be emotionally coddled forever, only “being loved” because she refuses to see those she’s spurned. Araragi realizes this too, which is why he stopped Yotsugi from interrupting.

    Ultimately, having others end the relationship out of sight (and out of mind) would be disingenuous to any feelings that were previously held in that relationship. Kanbaru, as Araragi’s friend, doesn’t want to see Araragi be hurt if this were to happen to him in the future. And thus she refuses to back down from Shinobu, at the risk of her own life. She was always the straightforward and bold one after all.

    tldr: Araragi could be the future First, abandoned by Shinobu because she feels a direct communication to indicate the end of their relationship would be unnecessary. If that were to happen to Araragi, he would be devastated (and us too). Since Kanbaru doesn’t want to see her friend Araragi hurt, she refuses to give that scenario even a chance of occurring, by insisting that Shinobu be direct with her relationships now.

    • December 13, 2015 at 9:27 pmDarkRios III

      I picked up on the Kanbaru understanding how the first feels right away. Kanbaru was in the firsts’ shoes herself and luckily she was able to have a friendly relationship with Shenjougahara and Araragi afterwards. Kanbaru even tries to suggest a similar relationship to Shinobu but I don’t see that happening.

    • December 13, 2015 at 10:18 pmTakurannyan

      Wish i could express my understanding of the episode as good as you in words. Kudos

    • December 14, 2015 at 4:16 amMistic

      I agree that, from that point of view, it makes sense and it’s actually good advice about moving on. Facing your fears, learning from rejection, the pain of choosing. That’s good.

      The problems start when you remember that he’s a resurrected oddity hunter that could have, as Araragi pointed out, a murderous grudge, and the means to destroy immortal beings for good. That’s Araragi’s point of view here. Despite hearing Kanbaru’s advice, he still thinks doing it himself is the right course of action. Because according to the information he has at this moment, they are dealing with, at best, a crazy stalker willing to murder the competition or, at worst, a vampire hunter hellbent on revenge.

      A relationship lesson that makes you risk your life in a given situation doesn’t sound good no matter how sensible it may be in a normal setting. As Passerby says, this is more of a Space Whale Aesop.

    • December 14, 2015 at 8:13 amPasserby

      Disagree with me as you please, penguin71. We are subjective creatures both, and debate is the forge of wisdom. I love hearing the thoughts of others on anime, whether they align with mine or not. I’m a nerd, and I talk too much.

      As for my own thoughts, it’s as Mistic says. I saw the points Kanbaru was making, but I didn’t see why they would be necessarily convincing in this scenario. Kanbaru freely admits that she knows nothing about vampires and minions, or even much about Shinobu, so really she’s just making assertions. But Shinobu folds anyway, which I’ll commend Kanbaru’s force of will for, but it does make Shinobu look like a bit of the author’s strawman this time.

    • December 15, 2015 at 1:11 amCorin

      I’m only just catching up with my watching after a few busy weeks, but after reading this review I suspect there’s a bit of viewer informational bias going on here. To whit – the only thing Kanbaru knows about the First is what Shinobu (and Koyomi) have told her. She doesn’t know about the first half of the episode and what the First told to and tried to do to Koyomi – i.e., has no idea that he really is a crazy stalker who wants Shinobu back.

      Are her own crazy stalker tendencies affecting her viewpoint? Probably – that’s how she could arrive at ‘love’ being the reason for the First reviving and coming after Shinobu again instead of the more normal assumption that he’s out to kill her. But it would seem apparent, given Hanamonogatari, that her actual opinions about communication and her insistence on rejecting the First face-to-face have everything to do with her own implied experiences with poor communication and looking away from problems, even if she doesn’t consciously remember them at this point.

      In the context of the first half, yes, Kanbaru wanting Shinobu to meet Mr. I’m-So-Stalker-I-Came-Back-From-the-Dead is a pretty bad idea. But in the context of what she knows and her own experiences, what she says makes perfect sense.

      • December 15, 2015 at 4:25 pmPasserby

        That’s the thing, though; Kanbaru knows even less than we do. I have no problem with the fact that Kanbaru believes the things she’s saying, but I don’t see why Kanbaru would be convincing other than her being right out of pure coincidence, or authorial insistence.

  • December 13, 2015 at 11:43 pmazalea23

    I have to agree with this post as well.

  • December 14, 2015 at 4:56 amSnooSnoo

    I used to be really absorbed in the Monogatari series’ exposition and dialogue but now it’s just something I leave playing on my side monitor while I do something else. Heck even Gochiusa grabs more attention to me.

  • December 14, 2015 at 8:48 amAlphonse

    So the first servant was also her first love and now that he is back she doesn’t know what to do?

    That’s what I got from this episode.